Photo by Josh Miller/Sierra SunThe genorosity of NFL linebacker Brian Urlacher tops the Sierra Sun's list of best local sports stories in 2004.

1. Before the start of the NFL season, Chicago Bears star linebacker Brian Urlacher expressed his interest in choosing a location in the Tahoe area for a summer stint of high altitude training.

It was confirmed that starting on June 19, Truckee (elevation near 6000′) would be the place that Urlacher would test his physical limits for a month in preparation for Bears training camp, which opened July 27.

Truckee residents Gary Lewis and others accommodated Urlacher and personal trainer Chip Smith with a house on the lake in Tahoe City, but Urlacher was about to demonstrate his own generosity.

In order to maximize his workout, Urlacher wanted the high-tech modern equipment he was accustomed to, so he had his sponsor Hammer Strength deliver about 20 pieces of workout equipment worth over $50,000 to Sierra Mountain Middle School (since the high school was under construction at the time) in Truckee. By trading out $50,000 of his time to do two commercials for Hammer Strength, Urlacher seized an opportunity to help out a high school that otherwise couldn’t afford anything to this magnitude.

“It was a pretty easy deal,” said Urlacher, 26, who recently had his fifth year in the NFL cut short due to injury. “Hopefully I’ll be able to keep coming back every year and keep using this equipment.”

On Dec. 22, Urlacher’s season ended when he was placed on injured reserve by the Chicago Bears. Urlacher pulled his left hamstring Dec. 12 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, forcing him to leave the game early.

Urlacher, who failed to make the Pro Bowl for the first time in his five NFL seasons, missed two games following surgery to relieve internal bleeding in his left calf. He missed the third and fourth games of the season with a pulled right hamstring. The right hamstring was originally injured on the first day of training camp, and he missed all of the preseason.

Prior to this season, Urlacher had never missed an NFL game. He had played 66 straight games and made 64 straight starts before missing the Sept. 26 game against the Vikings.

He played nine games this year, all starts, and still ranks third on the team with 104 tackles. He leads all middle linebackers in sacks with five and has two forced fumbles and one interception.

-Urlacher’s ESPN profile:

2. Truckee resident and U.S. skier Daron Rahlves was already the top men’s downhiller in U.S. history, but he cemented his status during the 2004 season, finishing with eight wins overall ” the most by an American man in both downhill (six) and super G (two).

He took second in the downhill points total, equaling his USA-best performance from the 2003 season, and second in super G, an all-time U.S. best. He also took fifth in the overall title, despite only competing in two events while other skiers like Bode Miller did four or five.

And he’s doing it all at the age of 30, five years after most skiers a generation before him retired. At 5 feet 9 inches and 180 pounds, he’s one of the smallest skiers competing in a gravity sport where size and weight usually equal speed.

Rahlves success has continued this season. At the Birds of Prey downhill in Beaver Creek, Colo., Rahlves’ second-place behind Bode Miller marked the first time in World Cup history that two American men have stood on the podium together as Nos. 1 and 2 in a speed event.

Looking to add giant slalom points in his bid to challenge for the overall World Cup title, he had two solid runs in Alta Badia, Italy, to finish eighth in a giant slalom, the best World Cup GS result of his career.

– Visit Rahlves’ Web site at:

3. The 2004 Truckee football team was clearly the best in the 3A league this season, culminating with a 28-0 shutout win over Moapa Valley in the Nevada state championship on Nov. 20 at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.

Of the 1,546 fans that attended the game, about 500 loyal Truckee enthusiasts made the journey to Las Vegas to watch the Wolverines win their seventh Nevada state championship in school history and fourth in the last nine seasons.

Truckee’s defense gave up no points in the Northern 3A playoffs and only three in the final four games of the season. Saturday’s shutout was the Wolverines fifth out of 10 wins this season. Outscoring its opponents 471-92 on the way to a 10-1 overall record ” including 10 consecutive wins ” Truckee ran roughshod over the competition after a season-opening loss at 4A Hug High School in Reno. The Wolverines last state championship came in 2001, when they defeated Moapa Valley 14-7.

Each team came into the championship game with only one loss, but Truckee jumped ahead with two first-quarter scores on its first two possessions. The Wolverines expanded on a 14-0 halftime lead with a touchdown on the first drive in the second half to clinch head coach Bob Shaffer’s fourth state championship victory.

Shaffer was named Coach of the Year in the 3A, safety Randon Nunez was named Defensive Player of the Year, and quarterback Paul Tierney was named Offensive Player of the Year.

-Sierra Sun story:

4. Truckee High’s senior standout Jamie Maehler had already cemented his legacy in Truckee football history after his junior year, but he added a state championship to his resume his senior year.

Maehler caught eight passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the championship game, falling just short of 3,000 yards receiving for his three-year varsity career (Maehler is the NIAA career record-holder with 2,977 yards receiving).

Astonishingly, at the conclusion of his junior season, Maehler already owned the career Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA) receiving record. The most amazing part of his story is that his first year of organized football was, believe it or not, his sophomore year. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder is currently the leading scorer on the varsity basketball team.

Maehler said he is interested in three Division I colleges: University of Nevada, Reno, Brigham Young University, and California Berkeley.

“I’m still looking for scholarships, and I’ve been setting up appointments to visit colleges, so we’ll see where it goes,” he said. “I’m really looking for throwing offenses. It’s definitely an exciting process to see how it all works.”

-Sierra Sun story:

5. 2004 Truckee High graduate J.R. Murphy shattered the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA) single-season strikeout record his senior year and finished his career as the all-timer leader in that category.

Murphy, a 6-foot-4 right-hander, was honored as a First Team pitcher on the 2004 3A All-State Team. He mowed down the competition in 2004 on his way to 154 strikeouts, 18 better than the previous single-season record set in 1999 by Cimarron-Memorial’s Mike Esposito (136). He had a 1.73 ERA and only walked 26 hitters.

On a 2-2 pitch, Murphy’s strikeout of Fernley’s Casey Bisard sent Truckee’s baseball program to its first state championship tournament since 1999, in which the Wolverines placed third.

Murphy’s arsenal consists of a strong fastball, slider and changeup, and his 301 strikeouts over a three-year varsity career are also an NIAA record (the old record was held by Laughlin’s Matt Morgan who posted 262 strikeouts from 1999-2002).

Murphy finished his Truckee baseball career seventh on the NIAA career wins list with 21. His 12 wins in 2004 is second on the NIAA single-season list. On April 24 at Rite of Passage, Murphy posted 18 strikeouts in a single game, one short of the NIAA record held by North Tahoe’s Shawn Price in 1986.

-Sierra Sun story:

6. A prestigious award put the icing on the cake in 2004 for the Far West Nordic division in the March 2004 Chevy Truck U.S. Cross Country Junior Olympic Championships in Lake Placid, N.Y.

After achieving a record number of medals (top 10 individual finishes and top 5 relay finishes) and podium appearances (top 3), Far West Nordic athletes headed home with a special award for team achievement.

The Truckee High School girls won the Roger Westin Award as the best individual high school team represented at Junior Olympics, a first for Far West. This award had never been won by a school team from outside the state of Alaska. Also, The Truckee boys’ team recorded a very impressive third place finish. The boys and girls Nordic teams both won the varsity divisions at the high school state championship event.

Joaquin Goodpaster, now a senior at Truckee High, competed on the Scandinavian Cup team in Oteppa, Estonia last Jan. 30-Feb.1, one of the largest junior international ski competitions in the world.

-Sierra Sun story:

7. Courtesy of the Truckee High baseball team, Bishop Manogue’s 91-game Northern 3A league winning streak, dating back to 1997, came to an end.

Behind standout performances by seniors Nik Smith and J.R. Murphy, and exceptional defense, Truckee inserted an April 6 glitch into Manogue’s ideal 2004 send-off, winning 3-1.

“It was our last year in 3A, and if we would have finished out the year (on a winning note) it would have been 100,” said Manogue head coach Charles Oppio. “Streaks are meant to be broken, but this was a six-year winning streak, and there’s a lot of kids involved in that. It’s tough to see it go.”

Manogue would go on to win the 3A state championship, while Truckee finished third. It was Manogue’s fifth 3A championship in six years before moving up to the 4A.

-Sierra Sun story:

8. The Donner Party did it again. In an act of ultimate cannibalism, the Tahoe ultimate Frisbee team gobbled up every opponent in sight en route to a third straight World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) ultimate championship in Turku, Finland, on July 31-Aug. 7.

The team took its third straight Mixed title by defeating Canada 17-14 on Aug. 7. Both teams tied in total goals after the first round of the tournament, but Canada’s total goals against opponents averaged a staggering 25 over seven games.

With that in mind, most people expected the match to be a barn-burner between two colossal unbeatens, and the match proved exciting to watch as the USA’s potent offense hammered against one of the best defenses in the tournament.

Donner Party may very well be proclaimed an Ultimate dynasty with their overall victory. Beginning in 2002, with their incredible run to the top from a low initial seed in the World Ultimate Club Championships in Hawaii, the Party have won two consecutive UPA Championships and now take home the gold for the USA in the Mixed division at the WUGC.

-Sierra Sun story:

9. Truckee’s Babette Haueisen and Elissa Slanger and Reno’s Lyn Mundt were honored at the 17th Veteran Ski Instructors Reunion held in Park City, Utah, on Dec. 11.

Haueisen, a 74-year-old Truckee resident, was a ski instructor for 45 years and became a fixture in the Tahoe area, including stints at Soda Springs, Donner Ski Ranch, Sugar Bowl and Alpine Meadows. But she created her legacy in the profession at Northstar-at-Tahoe, where she taught for 20 years before retiring in spring 2003.

Slanger, 70, still skis four times a week and works occasionally at Squaw Valley USA. It couldn’t be more appropriate that Slanger will be honored with six other women, since she started the “Women’s Way” ski seminar at Squaw in 1975 and has influenced the birth of more than 200 such programs since. Slanger has been an instructor since 1967.

Mundt, 56, became a certified instructor at Lake Eldora, Colorado and earned a degree at University of Colorado, Boulder, where she started teaching in 1968. She taught at Mammoth Mountain for four years before moving to Reno in 1974. From there, over a 21-year period, she was promoted from instructor to director of the Mount Rose Ski School. Her 35 years of ski instruction ended in 1998 with a teaching spell at Diamond Peak.

Each will have a black and white portrait added to a collection of other veteran instructors who have been honored since Alf Engen’s inaugural induction in 1991. However, this year marks a reversal in the trend of mostly honoring men at the annual ceremony.

“I’m very pleased, but not so much because I’m being honored, but because women in ski instruction are being honored,” Mundt said. “Women (ski instructors) are valued now. They are important because they instinctively know how to motivate women.”

-Sierra Sun story:

10. Before he teed off for the inaugural round of golf at the course he helped design, Jack Nicklaus was asked what his vision of Old Greenwood was before it became a reality on Aug. 30.

“Trees,” was the first thing that came to his mind, Nicklaus said, eliciting laughter that kicked off a morning press conference at the Pavilion clubhouse. “Northstar … and a valley, a highway and an opportunity.”

Trees are a main ingredient in the Old Greenwood blend of mountainous beauty and secluded forest, setting it apart from many of the 166 Nicklaus Design courses open for play in the United States.

The course, which sits on 600 acres just off Interstate 80 in Truckee at an elevation of 6,000 feet, will play up to 7,542 yards. That may seem like a lot, but it was one way Nicklaus tried to appeal to the amateur golfer.

Old Greenwood is the 16th Nicklaus Design golf course in California, but it is the first Jack Nicklaus Signature Course in North Lake Tahoe.

The signature course designation means the winner of 20 Major titles gives his attention to every aspect of the course’s design and development.

The expansion of Nicklaus Design does not stop in the United States. Nicklaus Design, in which all of Nicklaus’ four sons play some role in the business, now has courses open in 22 countries outside the U.S., with the most (24) in Japan. Seventy-seven different Nicklaus Design courses have hosted professional golf tour events.

For more information, visit or call (530) 550-0844. For more information about Nicklaus Design, visit

-Sierra Sun story:

– Truckee senior quarterback Paul Tierney leads his team to a 3A state championship and finishes his career second all-time in passing yardage with 4,536, short of former Truckee quarterback Kevin Schlesinger, who had 4,949 from 2000 to 2002. Amazingly, Tierney completed 70 percent of his passes and threw 24 touchdown passes and just three interceptions in 2004.

– In March, Truckee High alpine skiers Miranda Funston and Sean Jordan are named Tahoe Basin Ski League MVPs for the 2004 season.

– In May, Truckee High’s Maisha Goodpaster earns first in both the regional and state championship Track and Field triple jump competitions.

– In July, Truckee’s Shannon Rahlves just misses the Donner Lake Triathlon International course record ” 2:24.51, set by Holly Nybo in 2000 ” finishing first among women and 18th overall with a time of 2:25.34. A day before, in the shorter Sprint competition, Rahlves was a contender to win the entire race, placing fourth overall with a time of 41:32, three minutes and 39 seconds behind winner Michael R. Smith, 40, from Santa Barbara (37:53).

– In November, Truckee’s Conrad Snover places fourth in his age group at the XTERRA (Offroad triathlon) World Championship in his final year in the 25-29 division. It was a substantial improvement over Snover’s sixth-place finish in that age group at the 2003 XTERRA World Championship.

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